Peripheral neuropathy affects the peripheral nerves located in the brain and spinal cord. These are in charge of transmitting signals from the nervous system to the body, allowing your limbs to have proper movement and balance. It’s usually caused by correlated autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes and infections.
This condition can impact your daily life, causing sleep and sensory disturbances, problems with balance and coordination, and psychological issues due to chronic pain.
Peripheral neuropathy may be caused due to the following factors:
- Diabetes: High levels of sugar in the blood can cause damage to the peripheral nerves.
- Nerve Compression: A herniated disc or conditions like spinal stenosis could cause peripheral nerve compression.
- Physical Trauma: Injuries in the spine or limbs could cause damage to the peripheral nerves.
- Infections like herpes, Lyme, or bacterial infections could directly affect the peripheral nerves.
If you identify any of the following symptoms, we recommend visiting your doctor for evaluation. The most common signs of peripheral neuropathy include:
- Pain, cramping, or discomfort in the legs, especially during exercise
- Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs or feet
- Coldness or changes in skin color in the affected limbs
- Non-healing sores or ulcers on the legs or feet
- Slow or weak pulse in the affected limbs
If you have one or more of the previously mentioned symptoms and would like a professional diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy, your doctor will likely perform the following evaluations:
- Medical history of your family to discard any potential hereditary factors that could contribute to the development of peripheral neuropathy
- Physical examination of your limbs, back, and neck
- Blood tests to assess risk factors and underlying conditions
As peripheral neuropathy can derive from multiple causes and correlated conditions, the best treatment option will depend on its root cause. Your doctor will help you choose the most appropriate treatment for you. These may range from the following disciplines:
Minimally invasive interventions aim to reduce pain and discomfort while reducing the amount of tissue and nerve disruption. This approach allows patients to return to regular activities within a matter of days and a lower risk of complications.
The most common minimally invasive intervention for peripheral neuropathy is MILD, which stands for minimally invasive lumbar decompression. This procedure aims to relieve pressure on the spinal and peripheral nerves by removing a small portion of bone or tissue through a small incision.
Non-opioid medications help manage pain while reducing the risk of addiction and side effects. Some of the best non-narcotic medication options for peripheral neuropathy include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, topical analgesics, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and vitamin supplements.
Neuromodulation aims to reduce pain symptoms by stimulating the nerves that send pain signals into the brain. Some of the most common neuromodulation treatments for peripheral neuropathy include:
- Peripheral nerve stimulation - Involves using electrical stimulation to target peripheral nerves
- Nerve blocks - Temporarily numb the nerves that send pain signals to the brain
- Spinal cord stimulation - Uses electrical impulses to modify the nerve activity in the spine
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) - Involves using low-level electrical impulses to help reduce pain and increase blood flow
A non-invasive and conservative approach to peripheral neuropathy can help reduce pain symptoms by using exercise techniques and performing lifestyle changes. These may include:
- Physical therapy that focuses on muscle, balance, and coordination improvement
- Relaxation techniques for pain management, like breathing exercises
- Maintaining a healthy blood sugar level
- Wearing comfortable shoes to avoid applying more pressure to the peripheral nerves
- Having a balanced diet
- Performing exercise regularly
- Avoiding heavy drinking and smoking